A Weekend Return to Grass Valley and Nevada City - August 2012
By Brian Caulfield
As someone who lived in Nevada County over 20 years ago, the recent opportunity to come back for a visit with old friends felt both exciting and long overdue. During those 20 years I’ve had the chance to travel widely throughout the western half of our country and to live in several other towns and states. After seeing Nevada City and Grass Valley again on my recent “long weekend of appreciation,” one opinion has been solidified for me: these are absolutely the finest pair of neighboring downtowns in the West, bar none! Sure, there are plenty of communities with nice, older commercial districts and almost everywhere you go something passes as “charming.” But these two are true jewels and only five minutes apart, so if you’ve been taking them for granted, I’d like to refresh your perspective.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the weather was gorgeous but there’s something special about standing at the top of Broad Street and surveying “The City of the Seven Hills.” Not that I was about to confuse Nevada City with Rome, even though we did end up enjoying a delicious lunch at Cirino’s. It was pure pleasure to make our way down that hill again, recalling and only slightly aggrandizing events from the year we participated with “The Marching Presidents” in the Constitution Day Parade. Along the way we visited a delightful collection of businesses with my friends pointing out what might be new to me and me calling out the names of those in the “still there” category.
Nevada City continues to do an excellent job of tying into the local fine arts community, which is a really smart way of creating an identity that attracts visitors and generates excitement for locals too. Along the way it was reassuring to spot old favorites like Cirino’s, Friar Tuck’s and Utopian Stone, and to bask in the gravitas of the National Hotel. To be truly top-notch, a downtown district has to have a large old historic hotel where at least half-a-dozen famous characters of the West have stayed the night and hopefully done something notorious. Grass Valley has the Holbrooke Hotel and Nevada City has the National Hotel—check and check!
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